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The Board Member Commitment: Time, Talent, and Treasure

The Board Member Commitment

Board members are volunteer workers, fundraisers, cheerleaders and accountability partners for the nonprofits they serve. How is a person able to manage the board member commitment? Setting expectations about time, talent and treasure is important for anyone who is making our communities better places to live by serving as board members for organizations.

What exactly is included in the board member commitment? We've unpacked the time, talent, and treasure that are needed for this important role.
 

What is a reasonable board member commitment of time?

There is no set rule on how much time each month a board member must commit. In very small nonprofits, board members often function as unpaid staff. In all-volunteer organizations, board members may be the only “staff.” On the contrary, larger nonprofits often ask board members to serve in an advisory capacity.

When you are invited to serve on a board, it is important to ask about the required time commitment. Furthermore, aside from board meetings, what committee participation requirements are there? Is there a requirement to volunteer and attend events sponsored by the organization? Are there community forums and meetings that you may be asked to attend? Finally, does the fundraising plan ask that you accompany development staff to meet with donors or funding partners?

Getting answers to those questions will help you to decide if you have enough time to participate fully in the requirements. In their eagerness to have you serve on the board, you may not get the whole picture of the board member commitment. Clearly, that’s why it’s crucial you ask specific questions. Once you know that you have the time to participate fully, you can dive in and provide enthusiastic support.

Which of your talents are you being asked to share with the nonprofit?

Boards often look for people with specific skills and talents to serve on the board. Be very clear about what you are willing to do as a board member. For example, not every attorney wants to serve as the pro bono board attorney that reviews contracts, purchase agreements and gives free legal advice. Not every CPA wants to be the pro bono bookkeeper for a small nonprofit. Attorneys and accountants are great board members because they ask excellent questions. Making recommendations for where to go for legal advice and serving on the finance committee may be the best ways for them to contribute.

Other professionals should do the same. If your expertise is in marketing, investments, banking, or various other professions, ask questions before joining the board. You can avoid misunderstandings by setting realistic expectations about the kind of support you are able to provide.

What treasure must I contribute?

Many organizations have specific giving requirements in the board member commitment. Sometimes, the requirement is to contribute a specific amount each year. Other nonprofits ask that board members contribute an amount that is “significant” to their capacity.

Are board members expected to buy a certain number of tickets or sponsor a table at events? If the organization has a significant number of fundraising events each year, it could be a sizable contribution

Serving on a board of directors can and should be a positive experience. However, make sure you clearly understand the requirements. Clearly outline what time you can devote to serving and helping. Board members are tremendous assets to nonprofit organizations. Realistic board member commitments on everyone’s part makes it a winning combination of time, talent and treasure.


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